Revenue commissioner speaks at Rotary

Published 3:30 pm Tuesday, August 29, 2023

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WEST POINT — Chambers County Revenue Commissioner Beth Abney talked about the work of her office at last Thursday’s meeting of the West Point Rotary Club. The county’s revenue department is on course to bring in an estimated $20.7 million this year. Portions of that money will go to the Chambers County and Lanett school boards, the Chambers County Commission, the State of Alabama and the Chambers County Library.

“We collect city, county and state taxes and disperse it to the appropriate entities,” she said.

Abney credits her staff for the work they do.

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“I couldn’t do what we do without my ladies,” as she said. ‘We are very transparent. If we can help you, we will. We try to do everything above board.”

Abney came up through the ranks to her present position. She succeeded former Revenue Commissioner Wendy Williams when she retired from the position in March 2019 and was elected to a full term the following year.

The most experienced person in the office is John Hall. He’s semi-retired but works three days a week. He’s presently training someone who will succeed him as the county’s full-time mapper. Hall has over 40 years of experience in the office. He probably knows more about land in Chambers County than anyone else ever has.

Abney said it’s never easy to deal with delinquent property owners. Those who don’t pay their taxes can, and do, lose their land. “On April 23, we sold 42 properties for delinquencies,” she said.

Some of those landowners manage to keep their property through redemptive rights, but most of those people lose their land. Abney said this year’s tax sale took about two-and-a-half hours.

Much of the work done by Abney and her staff involves explaining to property owners why they are being taxed what they are for the property they own.

“Once they understand, everything goes smoothly,” she said.

The tax office gets lots of questions about homestead exemption. Abney explained that this is a way to minimize property taxes for homeowners. Someone who owns a primary residence, for example, and wants to reduce their overall tax bill associated with that residence may file for homestead exemption. In Alabama, any homestead exemption must be requested by written application filed with the state’s revenue commissioner by Dec. 31. A homestead exemption in Alabama only applies to a single-family residence owned and occupied as the applicant’s primary residence the first day of a new fiscal year (Oct. 1).

Homestead exemption is granted to all Class III single-family owner-occupied properties. This exemption allows the property owner to deduct up to $4,000 in state tax and $2,000 in county tax from the total assessed value of the property.

In Alabama, the county revenue commissioner is responsible for determining property value, which by law, must be set according to “fair and reasonable market value.” In most cases, the land is not for sale but a county appraiser must set the value of the property as if it were sold in an arm’s length transaction between a buyer and a seller.

People who are 65 years of age or older are exempt from the state portion of property taxes. County taxes may still be due.